Big country, long distances

The Imhambane-Maxixe ferry. The key to speaking Portuguese is your best Sean Connery impersonation.

The tent had to be packed away for 5.30 am and the bus to Imhambane. We see much less of the coast then I imagined we would, but when we do its spectacular. Verdant islands just offshore among clear blue waters and under a bright sun.

Imhambane is quiet; the bay really rather stunning. The town’s rather a hotch-potch of wide tree-lined avenues, dusty side-streets, and decades worth of architectural styles that are undoubtedly only still standing to date because of the lack of money to knock them down and build anew.

Imhambane’s jetty has a ferry shuttle service of Maxixe (pronounced Mash-eesh). On paper the half hour journey across the baia is the quickest way north. There is a half-full vehicle to Vilankulo waiting on the other side. By the time we rocket past a “tropico de capricorno” sign a while later, almost without me noticing, there is only me and one other in the chapas (minibus). Back in the tropics then.

What should have been a simple 5 hour journey becomes an 11 hour epic. We don’t leave a depot stop for more passengers for nearly 4 hours. When we do, its only as far as the next street corner where we wait again.

We fill to squashing capacity, mostly with locals moving between small towns en route. This means we’re stopping on and off every kilometre or so. As the light fades my legs begin to cramp painfully and I start to get fed up. It feels a little like penitence for having it too easy recently.

The chapas on to Inhassaro is the worst I’ve been in for some time, mostly held together by aging spot-welds. The roof struts buckle a little with the ups and downs of the roof cargo, including my bag, tied down with some old rope. My thoughts of “surely we must be full now” continually leads to us stopping to pick up another person. I had been given a good seat. Only 4 of us share the 3 seats and its behind the standing zone by the just-about-still-sliding door. But the road is mostly good tar, and it means I’m still further north.
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